Laura // 11 February 2010
Was anyone else appalled by Labour’s proposals, announced earlier this week, to give a monetary reward to people who inform on benefit ‘cheats’? I think it’s a disgusting way to exploit people living in poverty and encourage them to turn on each other rather than feel any kind of empathy or desire to work together to fight against the government’s determination to vilify them in exchange for middle and upper class votes.
No doubt some people do take the piss when it comes to benefits – so making life harder for genuine claimants – but given that the system is absurdly complicated, stuffed with unfair rules and does not give adequate provision to many people, ‘cheating’ may amount to nothing more ‘immoral’ than doing what you can to get the money you would be entitled to in a fairer society. I can’t condemn that. My only personal experience of benefits is with Job Seekers’ Allowance, and given my frustration at not being able to claim it because I live with my boyfriend, I can fully empathise with those who ‘cheat’ by hiding their cohabitation status. Surely the solution is to overhaul the benefits system, not to create a network of community snitches.
How can we trust the figures on the numbers of benefit ‘cheats’ when some people with disabilites and debilitating illnesses are being unreasonably and unfairly deemed capable of working and ineligible for certain benefits and extra support finding employment due to the introduction of an overly stringent Work Capability Test administered by a private company and designed to save the government money? No doubt the Daily Mail will be proclaiming all these people ‘cheats’, yet they are the ones who have really been cheated.
Corporations continue to fleece us out of billions of pounds through elaborate tax evasion schemes, yet the government spends its time thinking up cunning ways to stamp down on the most underprivileged members of our society. Thanks, New Labour.
It’s this kind of thing that fills me with despair at the thought of the coming elections. Lose/lose even harder, anyone?